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Brazil: Blogosphere in support of anti-corruption bill

Technology for Transparency Network This post is part of the Technology for Transparency Network where we research technology that promotes accountability and transparency worldwide· All Posts

At the exact moment of this post's publication, over 1,735,000 people had already signed a petition supporting the Ficha Limpa (No Criminal Record) bill, which seeks to prevent politicians who have committed serious crimes, such as misuse of public funds, corruption, murder and drug trafficking, from running in elections.

It may be hard for the international reader to understand why a law is needed to regulate something like this, but in Brazil, there are a good number of politicians in office with a criminal record.  For example, the Congressional Deputy Paulo Maluf, whose name recently made it to the wanted list of Interpol, for conspiracy and appropriation of public funds. (Malufar is a neologism invented by Brazilians, a verb meaning “to steal public money”.)

The goal of the campaign, which included Avaaz.org in recent weeks, was to gather 2 million signatures before today Wednesday April 7, the day the project is to be decided on in the Chamber of Deputies.  If approved in the Chamber, the bill goes to the Senate.

With the tagline “A vote has no price, it has consequences”, the Ficha Limpa campaign was launched in April 2008 by the Movimento de Combate à Corrupção Eleitoral [Movement Against Electoral Corruption, pt] with the goal to improve the profile of candidates running for office in the country:

Para isso, foi elaborado um Projeto de Lei de iniciativa popular sobre a vida pregressa dos candidatos que pretende tornar mais rígidos os critérios de inelegibilidades, ou seja, de quem não pode se candidatar.
Pessoas condenadas em primeira ou única instância ou por meio de denúncia recebida em tribunal – no caso de políticos com foro privilegiado – em virtude de crimes graves como: racismo, homicídio, estupro, tráfico de drogas e desvio de verbas públicas. Essas pessoas devem ser preventivamente afastadas das eleições ate que resolvam seus problemas com a Justiça Criminal;

In order to do this, we prepared a bill by popular initiative about the previous records of the candidates to tighten the criteria of ineligibility, that is, those who can not run for elections:
People convicted in first or single instance or through complaint in court (in the case of politicians with special jurisdiction) for serious crimes such as racism, murder, rape, drug trafficking and misuse of public funds. Such persons must be preventively barred from elections to deal with their problems with criminal justice.
Brazil needs you - fulfil your own duty.

One of the many banners that have become popular in the blogosphere

In addition to the 1.6 million signatures collected at the grassroots by activists and church groups, the project won the sympathy of the blogosphere, which embraced the project. In October last year, Arthurius Maximus [pt] published the banner above, calling readers to participate in the campaign and saying it was high time they forgot any ideological differences and put pressure on MPs to approve the bill:

Esqueça […] as ofensas costumeiras do embate ideológico. Esqueça a Copa do Mundo, as Olimpíadas ou o BBB. Esqueça que seu time pode ser campeão ou ser rebaixado. Esqueça que seu professor é um chato ou que seu aluno não quer nada com estudo. Esqueça que seu chefe não te valoriza ou o empregado preguiçoso. Esqueça tudo… menos das vezes em que você se sentiu humilhado e traído ao ver um homicida, um traficante ou um corrupto notório e condenado em diversos processos (mas ainda “inocente até que se prove ao contrário”, em processos que se arrastam por décadas, levados por advogados espertalhões e pagos com o seu dinheiro suado, devidamente roubado dos cofres públicos).

Chegou a hora do “bom combate”. Chegou a hora de esquecer as diferenças ideológicas e de primar por uma nova era na política nacional. [...]
Como é de se esperar (no Congresso Nacional, mais de um terço dos congressistas ficariam inelegíveis imediatamente caso o projeto fosse aprovado), os políticos se articulam para barrar, modificar ou tornar inócuo o projeto.

Forget [...] the customary insults of ideological debates. Forget the World Cup, the Olympics or the Brazilian Big Brother. Forget that your football team might be champion or might be demoted. Forget that your teacher is boring or that your students do not give a shit about their studies. Forget that your boss does not value you or forget your lazy employees. Forget everything … except the times when you felt betrayed and humiliated by seeing a murderer, a notorious drug dealer or a well known corrupt person, people who have been convicted in several instances (but still “innocent until proven the contrary”, sometimes in cases that go on for decades, defended by cunning lawyers and paid with your hard earned money, duly stolen from public funds).It's time to fight the “good fight”. Time to forget the ideological differences and to shine in a new era in national politics. [...] As you might have expected (in the House of Representatives, more than a third of the congressmen would be immediately ineligible if the bill passed), politicians are working to bar, modify or make the project harmless.
Banner criado por Renato Hirata
A signature to end corruption. Banner by Renato Hirata

Pedro Hutsch Balboni [pt], who normally does not blog about politics, opens an exception to promote the online petition hosted by Avaaz, even if the votes there are not for real:

É lógico que essa votação não é aberta ao público, para nós ficam causas muito importantes como o desarmamento ou não, enquanto a escolha de “se queremos políticos corruptos ou não” é feita somente por deputados (vejam só, são políticos!). Mas há também, no meio dessa sujeirada, bons deputados, que realmente estão interessados no futuro do país, e que são contrários a corrupção na política.

Of course people won't be able to vote on this, we are left with very important causes like the [2005] gun ban referendum, whereas choosing “whether we want corrupt politicians or not” is only decided by the Deputies (can you believe it, the politicians!). But, in the middle of this dirt, there are also good politicians, who are really interested in the future of this country, who are against corruption in politics.

Not everyone is optimistic about the Ficha Limpa bill approval. Fernandinho Brasileiro [pt] thinks that such a project in a country like Brazil even looks like a bad taste joke:

O MCCE tenta em vão aprovar esse projeto de lei que esbarra na própria constituição não desperta o menor interesse por parte dos políticos. Afinal de contas, o deputado do Castelo,o deputado que está se lixando para a opinião pública,os mensaleiros,os sanguessugas,estão totalmente contrários a esta lei,pois serão diretamente atingidos por ela. A lei ficha limpa não olha o sistema político e econômico que impera no país.

MCCE tries in vain to pass this bill that runs into the constitution itself and does not provoke the slightest interest from politicians. After all, Mr “Castle Deputy” [see background story], the deputy who does not give a shit about public opinion, those who receive bribes, the bloodsuckers, are totally opposed to this law, as they would be directly affected by it. The Ficha Limpa law does not take into consideration the political and economic system that prevails in the country.

Other bloggers asks about the feasibility of making such projects work in reality. Ricardo RicBrSp [pt] says the idea is not too bad, but as he does not believe it would work but bring chaos, he prefers to campaign for null vote:

Se isto vier a acontecer o Brasil todo vai ficar sem rumo, sem chefia, sem poder executivo, pois ele só consegue operar nas condições atuais, movido a corrupção.

If this were to happen the whole of Brazil would have no direction, no leadership, no executive power, because it can only operate under current conditions, fueled by corruption.

Going viral

Despite the pessimism of some, on the eve of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the bill became viral, doing the rounds in mailing lists and having even made it many times to the Twitter trending topics for Brazil. Many tweets promoted the Avaaz petition, but Tico Santa Cruz [pt] pointed out contradictions in the Brazilian law, which does not allow that people with criminal record apply to be public servants:

@Ticostacruz: Ñ pode fazer concurso Público qm Ñ tem Ficha LIMPA então a lógica é a mesma p qm quer ser Polítco http://bit.ly/b2SVXu – ASSINE! Já assinei

@Ticostacruz: Those with criminal records can not bid to work as a public servant, so it is the same logic for politicians http://bit.ly/b2SVXu – Sign it! I have!

Many, however, have no hope the bill will be signed into law. @jrkbza is one of them [pt]:

@jrkbza: será que estão acreditando que essa Lei Ficha Limpa será aprovada pelos deputados? eu espero que sim, mas sei que não.

@jrkbza: are they seriously believing that this Ficha Limpa bill will be approved by the deputies? I hope so, but I don't think it will.

And not even members of parliament are that confident. Deputy Chico Alencar [pt], who backs the project, calls the attention of the population:

@depchicoalencar: ‘Ficha limpa’ esta semana na Câmara. Fiquem atento(a)s: vão tentar “aprimorar”(= tornar inócuo) o PL, ou adiar a votação…

@depchicoalencar: ‘Ficha limpa’ this week in the Chamber. Watch out: they'll either try to “improve” the bill (= make it innocuous) or postpone voting…

However, having the support of both, left and right wing parties in some degree, the project makes some people hopeful, such as Adriana Cristina [pt], who believes that people can change the country with the power of their votes:

@adryanacristina: Vamos pressionar os deputados conseguindo 2 milhões d assinaturas p mostrar que se eles não votarem pela “Ficha Limpa” não votaremos neles!

@adryanacristina: Let's put pressure on the deputies reaching 2 million signatures to show that if they don't vote for “Ficha Limpa” we won't vote for them!
  • Carolina Neri

    Hundreds of Brazilians hope for this bill to pass, but more important, are the voice of them who are tired of corruption in the country. Who are tired to be told they cannot do anything, “it’s always going to be the same”. As I said, the bill may pass or not, but our indignation will be present from now on…

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  • http://lusosfera.wordpress.com/ Paula Góes

    Well said, Carolina! Let’s not let it die.

    Update: Voting has been postponed to the first week of May, according to Agência Câmara. The bill has been submitted to the Citizenship and Justice Comitee, which will have until April 29 for appreciation.

  • makelle

    Por que razão brasileiros votaram a favor destas contaminado políticos em primeiro lugar? Esta lei é completamente desnecessário se as pessoas não tinham a votação para contaminado ou criminoso políticos. No entanto se este não é auto-evidente ou conhecidos da população é uma coisa boa Educara sobre a questão!

  • Carolina

    Makelle,

    You are right, the population voted for them, and now we are paying the price; however, we still have compulsory vote in a country “with 16 million illiterates aged 15 years or more and 30 million functional illiterates, a concept that defines people with less than four years of study” (data from the 2003 government http://www.inep.go.br), where so many people do not have access to information. So, do we really think that those people know who are they voting for?

    Right now, the website from the House of Representatives (Camara dos Deputados – http://www2.camara.gov.br) does not allow you to check information from the Representatives – “Deputados”, or use the link “Talk to the Representative”. And even worst, the article they have in the front page informing the parties that did not vote for the “Ficha Limpa Project”, cannot be found…

    and you ask me why? well, because people started to look for their emails, and tel. and send complains during these last days of the campaing, whe it was brought to their attention.

    At the end, how citizens know who is worth voting or not?!

    PS:Thanks Paula, for giving space to this subject here. The MCCE announced that they won’t let it die, protests will come! :-)

    • makelle

      Carolina,

      Well I think you should start with very basic rights and needs. People may be illiterate but they know what’s best for them, and if you ask them they will vote for those who promise them what they need.

      Now you should tell people what politicians to trust and which are criminals because that’s basic and rids you of corruption and fraud.

  • Adriano Pandini

    Very well put Carol,

    I just like to add that now we have to fight the war on both fronts. Yes we must educate them, but we failed to do that for decades. So, if we are going to wait for all those people to get educated enough so that they can learn how vote we are better off calling a quits. The best thing to do know is to pass the FICHA LIMPA (no criminal record bill) and them with new open minded, pro-democracy, clean record people in power, things will begin to change progressively in all areas of the government. Impunity will no longer be acceptable bye the people, especially to those that have the money to buy their easy way out. You break the law you pay the price. Kids will have to be in school, parents will be accountable for their actions. A legislative reform will take place because we all have a common goal. And that is to bring about human development to our nation. As we can see our education system has been ineffective for too long. But that will change! Now, it’s time to treat our nation as a whole.

  • Carolina

    Education is the way to have a better country, and in addition to that, we need a sense of empowerment. We want illiterate people to have better education, we want critical thinkers instead of having someone telling them what to think. A lot of things have to have to change, there is not only one solution, but I think this bill could be the start…

    By no means I have blamed the “lower class income” people, for a better term to use, for the problems we have in our politics. The “middle, high” classes have forgotten them for years, and for many of them it would make more sense to vote for whoever gives them food, but voting for others that have not seen them at all. However, one should “teach the fisherman how to fish, instead of giving them it.”

    So, where can we start? The population does not believe things can change, “they (politicians) are all liers, criminals”, the MYTH of “nothing changes” prevails. So that’s why I mentioned empowerment, because we were to believe that we cannot change things, we are nobody.

    I think the “Ficha Limpa” gives you the sense that it’s not over, that it’s worth it fighting for a better country.
    Thw whole Ficha Limpa bill, is creating some interest in politics again, some people want to know more their reprresentatives, and they should, because is for their best inetrest to know if “that politician is bad or good”, because they can decide that. How can they choose? If they are able to take conlusions for themsleves, if they researched, if they look for information, if they understood both sides.

    Makelle, take a look at this article: http://congressoemfoco.com.br/noticia_list.asp?ct=46 and start looking for more info, then you can start creating your own ideas of who are the”bad guys”.

    Unfortunately, the bill may not pass, but finally some Brazilians woke up for the need of change, and not only politicians but our own thoughts!

  • Carolina

    Education is the way to have a better country, and in addition to that, we need a sense of empowerment.
    We want illiterate people to have better education, we want critical thinkers instead of having someone telling them what to think. A lot of things have to change, there is not only one solution, but I think this bill could be the start…

    By no means, I have blamed the “lower class income” people, for a better term to use, for the problems we have in our politics. The “middle, high” classes have forgotten them for years, and for many of them it would make more sense to vote for whoever gives them food, but voting for others that have not seen them at all. However, one should “teach the fisherman how to fish, instead of giving them it.”

    So, where can we start? The population does not believe things can change, “they (politicians) are all liers, criminals”, and the MYTH of “nothing changes” prevails. Therefore, that’s why I mentioned empowerment, because we have been forced to believe that we cannot change things, we are nobody.

    I think the “Ficha Limpa” gives you the sense that it’s not over, that it’s worth it fighting for a better country. There is decent people out there who want to do good.

    The whole Ficha Limpa bill ‘s been creating some interest in politics again, some people want to know more about their representatives, and they should, because is for their best interest to know if “that politician is competent, honest”, because the population will choose him/her at the end. How can we choose them? If we are able to take conclusions for ourselves, if we researched, if we look for information, if we understood both sides; we can make better choices.

    Makelle, take a look at this article: http://congressoemfoco.com.br/noticia_list.asp?ct=46 and start looking for more info, then you can start creating your own ideas of who are the “worth it of your vote”.

    Unfortunately, the bill may not pass, but some Brazilians woke up for the need of change, and not only politicians but our own thoughts!

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